With Spring in the midst and the snow melting away to reveal the green grass, that can only mean one thing other than warmer weather: baseball season.
Yes, the Twins are taking the field, but that’s not who we are talking about. We’re talking about the defending NSIC champions, the men’s baseball team.
Minnesota State is ready and has spring training right around the corner. Last year, the Mavericks were the top dogs of the conference and went all the way to the finals, winning it all. They finished out the year 35-5 in the NSIC and 46-11 as a whole, as the team didn’t hesitate to show everyone why they are the best.
“It is a great feeling when you are able to have success as a team, like we did last year. It gives us the goal of trying to repeat that this year but to take it even further,” senior RHP Dalton Roach said.
Roach is without question proud of his team’s performance last year. However, he isn’t settling for being only the conference champs, he wants more.
“Being conference champs is a phenomenal feeling, but it makes you want more and I can only imagine what it is like to say you are a college world series champ.” With that remark, the expectations for this upcoming season are set.
At the same time, the culture of the Mavericks is to go out and have fun. Magers isn’t putting/slamming down the rules and guidelines, instead he anticipates a season filled with the good, bad and maybe even the ugly.
“I expect them to come out and play hard, have a good attitude and realize we are going to have some ups and downs.” Coach Matt Magers said.
Success however, doesn’t come without competition and Dalton understands that being at the top of the food chain only means there are hungrier clubs out there.
“We know that we have a target on our backs every year and that will be the case again this year. I don’t think anyone is stressed or worried, everyone is more focused on finally getting outside and playing some games. If we just take it day by day, pitch by pitch, all of the preparation that we have been doing to get ready for this season will pay off,” he said.
The starting senior for the Mavericks was given the Tomko Award last year, which is given out to the top pitcher in the conference. Roach came out of last season with a 10-1 record in 13 starts, taking the mound for roughly 87 innings. In that time, the pitching phenom threw a 1.56 ERA, struck out 128 batters, a program single-season record, and gave up only 12 walks. Not to mention he put up 14 K’s in three games each. That’s half of the other team’s batters.
“It is an honor to say the least, being able to add an accomplishment like that onto my baseball resume. It is always a good feeling when you are acknowledged for anything at that kind of level,” Roach said.
On the topic of accomplishments, Coach Magers is on the horizon of eclipsing 400 wins in his career with 388 to start the year. What would usually be a milestone and cause for celebration, is just another statistic in the books for the head coach.
“I think it shows there’s been a lot of great players in the program. It’s definitely just a number and the players represent it if that,” he said.
One cannot question the hunger Roach has to reach the college world series. He is in his last rodeo and definitely wants to make a name for himself. That being said, the pitcher is nowhere near pushing the panic button knowing he has a strong team behind him.
“I think that we are going to have a very solid team this year. We have a lot of returning guys that know what it takes to play here and for the pieces that we lost from last year, we have some guys coming in ready to fill those gaps and do what they can to help the team,” he said. We aren’t a super young team anymore, we have more experience and I think that will show.”
Head Coach Matt Magers also sees players who are excited to play and ready for another season of baseball.
“I think you’re going to see a group of guys that are passionate about the game, full of enthusiasm and ready to go out and play a game of baseball,” he said.
It seems both the starting pitcher and the head coach have no worries coming out of the gate to start the year, and why would they? The men’s baseball team are the monsters of the conference ready to rifle through the NSIC.
The Minnesota State Mavericks travel down to Florida for a two-game series against Davenport Thursday and Friday. The team will be looking to kick the season off in style with two victories.